Minnesota Girls Are Not For Sale, a campaign in its first of a five-year campaign dedicated to ending underage prostitution in Minnesota, is leading a delegation early next week to Washington, where it hopes to bring more attention to child prostitution.
The Women's Foundation of Minnesota, which runs the campaign, told Whispers it will meet with members of the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, and congressional delegations from Minnesota.
Child prostituion already has the attention of the State Department, which last week a released a global study focused on human trafficking titled "Trafficking in Persons." One angle the study focused on is child prostitution in America, finding that 83 percent of girls prostituted in the U.S. are born in the country.
The issue also has the attention of the FBI, which has said Minnesota is a magnet for child prostitution, naming the Twin Cities as one of the nation's biggest centers of the activity.
According to the Minnesota Girls Are Not For Sale campaign, about 213 underage girls are sold every month in the state, which on average, means up to six times every day.
But with five years and $5 million, the campaign hopes to change all that, by redefining prostituted girls in the state as victims, not criminals, and by decreasing demand for child prostitution with better law enforcement targeting of pimps.
The campaign also hopes to attract change on the federal level.
Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota, tells Whispers that the campaign has already seen progress.
A Minnesota man was charged with four felony counts Thursday of buying sex with two teenage girls under Minnesota's new sex trafficking law. Roper-Batker calls it a "sea change" in terms of punishment for a customer of a child prostitute.
"Major highways run through our state in all directions, where girls are trafficked across state lines. Many of them are vulnerable in poverty and homelessness," Roper-Batker told Whispers. "We're seeing changes happening... But Washington needs to be part of the solution."